CAYE CAULKER, Belize District, Thurs. Sept. 6, 2018– Around 9:30 a.m. on Friday, August 31, police visited a dredge which was about 300 meters north of Caye Caulker and found a dangerous piece of ammunition, a 60mm live mortar shell.
A mortar shell is fired from a mortar, which is an artillery weapon which has been used since medieval times. The mortar has a short barrel and doesn’t have a very long range — about 800 yards.
There are still many questions surrounding how and why the mortar shell was put on the dredge, but early reports were that the workers on the dredge left for the day around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 20.
About an hour later, the watchman arrived and saw a small fire near the engine on the dredge. He then contacted his supervisor, who in turn contacted the workers. The police were called the next day and they found the mortar shell in a bucket near the engine. The shell had fire damage and if it had exploded, it could have caused very serious damage to the dredge and to personnel near it.
According to police, the watchman reported to them that he had seen a small white boat leaving the area around the dredge as he was arriving at about 6:30 that evening. The police said that experts of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) were called in to inspect the round before it was brought in.
Police told Amandala today that they cannot tell us who owns the dredge, but a source to us told us that UDP insider Damian Chamberlain manages the dredge, which was reclaiming land for Caye Caulker.
Back in World War II, mortar rounds could have been used as hand grenades by throwing them. Back then, most mortar rounds contained impact fuses which would allow the charge to trigger once it was struck.
According to wearethemighty.com, “For soldiers looking to use these mortar rounds as a grenade, they had to remove the safety pin and slam the tail of the mortar round against something solid to simulate the force of the weapon firing. After that, the round would explode from any sudden force applied to the fuse.”
However, doing this was very risky. Other websites also report that someone knowledgeable about the internal fuse workings could open it and manually arm it.